Talking Horses: Why the Irish will continue to rule at Cheltenham in March


The end of this weekend’s Irish travel ban could put an end to concerns that Covid-19 is somehow going to prohibit Irish runners from running at March’s Cheltenham Festival. Although these issues were evident in the midst of the troubling news and rapidly changing rules of the past quarter, I understand that senior figures in Ireland’s sport see the real risk as zero and prefer to see the problem as a non-story. Talking Horses: Lockout is expensive, but the mood in racing is one of reliefContinue readingIreland’s ban on entry from the UK was extended for a further 48 hours on Wednesday, but will end at midnight on Friday, making travel between the two countries possible again, although with extreme restrictions.

The move seems to have come too late for the runners that Gordon Elliott wanted on Saturday to send to Chepstow.

His undefeated pair, Quilixios and Duffle Coat, were now withdrawn by most bookmakers from betting on the final Juvenile Hurdle for which they were available at 9-4 and 4-1 respectively. However, with the end of the travel ban, Horse Racing Ireland’s advice to trainers is likely to change, so Irish trainers will again be permitted to send runners to Britain.

Employees traveling with horses would have to comply with Saturday’s restrictions, which include a negative PCR test for Covid-19 on re-entry to Ireland, followed by a self-isolation period. The need for self-isolation means that for Elliott and Willie Mullins, both of whom have a habit of taking several dozen runners to each festival, the new restrictions are a hassle, with the two of them winning half of all the races that week last year together. Any workers returning from the United Kingdom could be stopped from operating for two weeks, which would be a nightmare in late March for Elliott and Mullins, since they still have a large number of horses to train for the Fairyhouse, Aintree and Punchestown spring meetings.

But does anyone think this will stop them from targeting the Festival races in a determined way? Perhaps it will sharpen their attention so that any horse whose opportunity was no more than speculative will be left at home.

Certainly, Ireland’s “social” runners will not be at this festival. There will be fewer guests, but those who come will deserve respect. Quick Guide Horse Racing Tips for ThursdayShowTips by Chris CookSouthwell 12.45 Lord Of The Alps 1.15 The Greatest Showman 1.15 The Greatest Showman 1. 45 Decision 2 pivotal. 12.58 Sandymount Rose 1.28 Ben Brody 1.58 Thor De Cerisy 2.28 Lieutenant Rocco 2.58 Memphis Belle 3.28 Misty Mai 3.28 15 Perfect Swiss 2.45 Samovar 3.15 Momtalik 3.45 Compton’s FinaleFfos Las 12.58 58 Wolverhampton 4, Onethreefivenotout 4. 20 Space Kid (nap) 4.55 The Thunderer 5.30 Castlebar 6.00 Nest of Herons (nb) 6.30 Word of Honor 7.00 Unforgiving Minute 7.30 Thai Terrier Musselburgh Abandoned due to frost. Alarmed speculation triggered by the travel ban imposed in the days leading up to Christmas has led in recent days to a back page article in an Irish tabloid. Thank you for your input.

In races like the Mares Hurdle, for which the top three in the bookmakers’ lists are from Ireland, some bettors have pondered whether this could build a betting factor.

But as things stand, such conversation seems unjustified. “It must be a quiet week.” as one insider summed it up.


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